Do Other Prisoners Feel They Received Accurate PSI Reports?

By · Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

As a long-term prisoner, I have adjusted by learning as much as I can about America’s prison system. Primarily, I gather my information by talking with other prisoners and listening to their experiences. For the past five years I’ve been confined in minimum-security camps. Prior to that, I walked inside the fences and walls of higher-security prisons.

Generally speaking, the prisoners in minimum-security respond differently to their imprisonment than do those in higher-security prisons. Among the differences in adjustment patterns is a difference in attitudes and perceptions. Those who serve time in camps are more willing to accept responsibility. They want to move beyond the decisions that led them to prison and resume life as normal citizens in society. Such attitudes condition the men to express more acceptance in the fairness of proceedings. Those in camps were more willing to acknowledge that their Presentence Investigation Reports accurately represented them.

In higher-security prisons, the general rule was that prisoners felt targeted by the system. They expressed anger because the system seemed as if it was just one more institution that oppressed them. To those prisoners, the PSI was an accurate reflection of the prosecutor’s version of events. It was biased against the defendants, written in a tone that minimized the individual’s humanity and emphasized his criminality.

The different perceptions may be related to both class and educational levels. Those serving time in camps, generally, have higher education levels and they hail from more socially acceptable backgrounds. They may have had more access to counsel who explained the PSI, and they may have had more skills in expressing their interpretation of events. The more defendants cooperated with probation officers, the more likely the PSI report would reflect the defendant’s personality.

Higher-security prisons confine many more of the nation’s oppressed classes. Such individuals attribute the conditions of their lives to a system that practices unfairness at every level. The PSI represents one more example of society’s systemic pattern of oppression.

An individual’s interpretation of the PSI’s accuracy, then, relates to an individual’s perception of society and adjustment pattern in prison. The more an individual prepares for the PSI, it seemed that the more capable he was of influencing an accurate report.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.